What Pew Research Center Social Media Stats Mean for Authors

What Pew Research Center Social Media Stats Mean for Authors

The Pew Research Center (PRC) released a new study on social media use at the beginning of March. Its findings weren’t surprising.

PRC researchers found that Facebook and YouTube dominate the social media landscape.

It’s no surprise that Facebook “remains the primary platform for most Americans.” An estimated 68 percent of U.S. adults report they are Facebook users and three-quarters of them access Facebook on a daily basis. PRC stated:

With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.

YouTube is even more popular, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. PRC states:

The video-sharing site YouTube – which contains many social elements, even if it is not a traditional social media platform – is now used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Are you trying to reach the Young and New Adult demographic? Here is what the Pew Research Center says about them:

Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s. These differences are especially notable when it comes to Snapchat: 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds are Snapchat users, but that share falls to 54% among those ages 25 to 29.

The report also noted that Pinterest remains more popular with women (41 percent) than with men (16 percent).

LinkedIn continues to be popular with college graduates and individuals in high-income households. Nothing has really changed there.

What also became evident in this study is that people use multiple social media sites, not just one.

This overlap is broadly indicative of the fact that many Americans use multiple social platforms. Roughly three-quarters of the public (73%) uses more than one of the eight platforms measured in this survey, and the typical (median) American uses three of these sites. As might be expected, younger adults tend to use a greater variety of social media platforms. The median 18- to 29-year-old uses four of these platforms, but that figure drops to three among 30- to 49-year-olds, to two among 50- to 64-year-olds and to one among those 65 and older.

Facebook May Be Popular But Is It Right for Authors? Maybe Not

FacebookAre you now itching to redouble your efforts on Facebook? Not so fast. While 68 percent of U.S. users are on Facebook, it’s extremely challenging to reach them. Facebook’s latest tweak to its algorithm has made it virtually impossible for your Facebook fans (readers) to see your posts unless you invest in Facebook advertising. Facebook is basically a pay to play system for authors and anyone with a business page.

There’s a lot of buzz about Facebook groups, and more and more people are starting groups either in addition to having pages or instead of pages. Take Sharon Hamilton as an example.

I interviewed Sharon recently and she’s doing a lot to promote her books. She’s a prolific author in a popular genre and is a New York Times and USA Today, bestselling writer. As of this writing, she has 18,332 Likes and 17,878 followers on her Facebook page. But if you look at her Facebook page, you’ll see that there’s little engagement.

I’ve been following Sharon for quite some time, so I know that she used to have tremendous engagement on her Facebook page. What’s changed? Facebook has. Sharon keeps sharing great information and memes, but Facebook has tweaked its algorithm, making it harder for Sharon’s posts to appear in her fans’ news feeds.

That is unless she buys advertising.

If you look at your news feed these days, you’ll find that you see fewer posts from businesses and authors, fewer ads, and a lot more posts from friends and family. That’s because of Facebook’s algorithm and Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that Facebook users come to Facebook wanting to interact with friends and family and that you and I don’t want to see posts from business pages, such as author pages. In fact, even though I’ve liked many author pages, I never see them in my news feed.

Sharon was smart and started a Facebook group, which is doing well. She also has a street team.

But where does that leave you? One option is read a post I wrote about how to grow your Facebook page. Note that I wrote this post before Facebook’s latest change to its algorithm.

Facebook may seem to be the best place for authors to be but it isn’t. Well, it isn’t unless you’re willing to spend money on advertising.

If you have an extensive email list, start a Facebook group and encourage people to interact with you there, as well. Also, send tweets and Instagram messages with information about your Facebook group. Sharon Hamilton has a link on her website that automatically directs people to her Facebook group, called Rockin’ Romance Readers.

If you want information on how to start and run a group, there’s a blog post on Jane Friedman’s blog with some best practices for Facebook groups.

New Pew Research Center Statistics for Authors

YouTube Is Number 1 

YouTube is hot as is video. Let’s get real. All visuals are popular.

In comparison to Facebook (68 percent of U.S. users), YouTube claims 73% of them.

How is an indie author going to make good use of YouTube? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Record a reading if it’s fun and lively. Did you write a children’s book? Then post a recording of you reading your book to a circle of kids.
  2. Post your book trailers.
  3. If you wrote a nonfiction book, record some short tips videos.
  4. If you have a podcast, upload the video portion to YouTube.
  5. Until last month, I hosted a webinar series and posted the replay videos on YouTube.
  6. Interview other authors in your genre.

For YouTube to work, be lively in your videos. Have fun with what you’re doing and above all else, strive to connect with your readers.

“Other” Social Media Networks Still Have Their Place

While no one can compete with YouTube and Facebook in terms of the number of users, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter still have their place for authors marketing their books.

Pinterest is terrific at referring traffic to your blog and website so keep using it. Instagram, which Facebook owns, has been piling on the innovations and its users keep surging.

LinkedIn is a platform I only suggest for nonfiction authors. As a fiction author, you can have a profile and belong to a group that you think would be helpful. But traditionally I only think of LinkedIn as a place for businesses and nonfiction writers. If you use LinkedIn, be sure to take advantage of its publishing platform for your blog posts.

Now we come to Twitter. Twitter is where I spend most of my time. If you want to be traditionally published, publishers will want to see a following here. I know this for a fact become I’m in touch with a book coach who works out of Harvard University, and she’s hearing that publishers want to see 30,000 followers on their authors’ Twitter accounts.

Some see Twitter as an outpost, but I don’t. This is a place to engage with readers and form alliances with other authors. Think of authors like Joanna Penn, and she’ll tell you that she basically built her career as a dedicated aficionado of this platform. While Twitter does have an algorithm (read this excellent post by Buffer about it), it’s nothing compared to Facebook’s algorithm. Twitter isn’t a pay to play system. It’s a place where what you tweet will be seen without buying advertising and where you can engage with people.

Which social media should you be on? The answer is you need to be on more than one, but which ones will depend on the demographic you are trying to reach. Study the age demographics in this chart and decide from there.

Just remember to engage, enjoy, and have fun with your marketing. And whichever social media networks you select, make it visually attractive.

Frances CaballoAuthor of this blogFrances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference. In addition, she’s a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com. She’s written several social media books including the 2nd edition of Social Media Just for Writers and The Author’s Guide to Goodreads. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writers’ conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.

Practical tips for marketing your books on the social web












  1. If you write romance, Facebook is STILL the place to be. That’s where the romance readership is in the largest numbers. Yes, it’s more difficult now than it used to be, but it still works. Especially if you write a subgenre with a strong and vibrant FB group already in existence and you’re willing to put in the time to be present and known in the group.

    No idea what FB is like for other genres, because I don’t write or read those. But for romance, FB is still king and still worth the time and effort.

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